What to Do When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed (in High School) – An AP Language Process Essay

Liliana Foisy, Contributer

The following is a process essay written for Mrs. Hebert’s AP Language and Composition class.

What to Do When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed (in High School)

Life can get busy, especially when you are in high school. Between going to school, homework, sports, clubs, work, or going out, it seems like there is always something on your plate. After days and weeks and months of nothing but being busy, things can become very overwhelming. When this happens, you start to feel like you aren’t yourself, but there are some simple steps that you can do when you’re feeling overwhelmed:

 Step 1: Do something you really enjoy. The best thing to do when you are feeling overly overwhelmed is to take a break and do something you really enjoy. This doesn’t mean sitting back and watching TikTok on your phone, even if that’s something you enjoy doing. Think about a hobby that you enjoy but haven’t been able to find time for. Some ideas to consider are playing an instrument, reading a book, building a puzzle, baking, going outside, or anything else that makes you happy.

Step 2: Listen to music. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, music can be one of the most calming techniques to bring down your stress levels. That isn’t to say that you should just put on a random playlist, choose particular songs that can uplift your mood. Pick out songs that you associate with good, low-stress times. For example, maybe you associate a certain song with summer, and that makes you feel good. That would be a great song to choose. Another type of song you might choose is one whose lyrics are really meaningful to you, like a song that you can really relate to. Maybe there’s a song that has an amazing guitar part, then that would be a good song to listen to as well.

Step 3: Step Away from the Phone. This isn’t to say that phones are bad. In fact, they’re pretty handy. Though, when you’re feeling overwhelmed, taking a break from them is often pretty beneficial. How often do we find ourselves picking up our phone just to pass time? This could be by scrolling through TikTok, sending snaps of the ceiling to our friends (and even people that we never talk to outside of the phone), or liking the posts of people that you don’t even know. Even if you are just on your phone for five minutes, the amount of times you are on there for just five minutes will quickly add up until you are spending multiple hours aimlessly scrolling, snapping, and liking. Even just 30 minutes of time spent doing one of these activities is taking time away from you that you could be spending on yourself. Think about it? How many pages of that book you’ve been meaning to read could you get done in just 30 minutes? In fact, some people spend four plus hours on their phones doing nothing beneficial to themselves. Think of all the things you could do in four hours.

Step 4: Use Your Time Wisely. This goes along with the last step. It’s easy to procrastinate by using your phone or doing other pointless activities that you really don’t care about and are just doing to pass time. If you are feeling overwhelmed, then don’t waste a single minute. If you have a few minutes to take a break, use it to do (for example) homework. Then, when it’s the time that you would sit down to do homework, you will have less, or maybe even none. It might make you feel busy if every free minute you have is spent doing homework, but at the end of the day, it will pay off. For example, let’s say that after school, you have sports’ practice and work, and in between, you have two hours to do homework. What if you didn’t have to spend that whole two hours doing homework? What if you could spend it doing something you enjoy? Any of the hobbies from step 1 could be done during this free time. If you use your time wisely at school to do your work, then you can certainly have less than two hours of homework to do. If you finish work for a class early, instead of pulling out your phone, if the teacher allows, pull out homework for another class. On top of that, when given assignments to work on in class that will become homework…focus.

Step 5: Hang Out with Family or Friends. For some people, hanging out with family or friends can be more stressful than relaxing, but find someone in your life that you can be with who doesn’t cause you to feel overwhelmed. If you are feeling overwhelmed, you might not want to choose to go out and do something big. Instead, you will probably prefer to have a quiet night at home but in the company of whoever will bring you a calming presence.

Step 6: Say No. Some people like a busy schedule, but others don’t, and that can certainly lead to feeling overwhelmed. So even though it’s great to go out of the house, sometimes doing too much can lead to being overwhelmed. It’s not to say that you should cancel plans and not show up when you say that you will because that will just result in losing friends and respect. Though, when things are becoming too much, talk to your family and friends and explain that you are feeling overwhelmed and need a break. When talking to them, either talk to them in person, and if you can’t do that, call them. Don’t text them about it because that doesn’t make the situation better for either of you. You can also try talking to your teachers, coaches, or bosses if you feel overwhelmed about homework, practice, or work.

Now that you are able to feel less overwhelmed, you can find yourself again. Though, what if these steps didn’t help you? Then it is probably time to make some changes in your life beyond just these steps. It might be time to change your daily schedule or ask someone to help you. Remember, whatever you are enduring right now, it won’t last forever. If you don’t feel yourself, then it’s okay to make changes and seek help. You don’t have to live an endless cycle of doing too much. It’s easy to say that you don’t want to give up any of your plans, so first try these steps, and then you shouldn’t have to. In the end, you likely have time to do what makes you happy, you just have to find it.